2/27/10: Routeburn Track, New Zealand
I had only gotten ten hours of sleep when I was rudely awoken at 7:15 this morning. The unwelcome noise started as a friendly conversation between two people, but by 8am the bunk house had turned into a high school locker room after the football team had won the state championship. People were pulling pranks, shouting at each other, and I think I even saw one guy snap a wet towel at his friend. The craziest thing was, the noisy crowd was a senior citizen hiking group from New England. All of the younger trekkers were silently sleeping or packing their bags ready for the day’s hike. Who knew?
This abrupt start to the day got Zhou and me hiking a bit earlier than we had planned, so we passed by the next hut at 10am for our Shin Ramyun lunch. It was our final meal on the Routeburn – the last edible weight off our shoulders. One positive side effect of having to carry all our own food on the trek: every meal would not only re-energize us, but it would also lighten our load. It’s like getting upgraded to first class and then finding out your new seat is next to Halle Berry. Well, sort of…
Three hours after this not-so-trekker-friendly spicy instant noodle meal, we had finished the trek. Seeing the only comparison we’ve had was the 16 day trek through Nepal, the three days almost felt like they were over before they started. The big question is, were they worth it?
Day two of the Routeburn was one of the nicest days we’ve spent on this trip. The skies were bluer than Elvis’ shoes, and I couldn’t have set the temperature better if I had a thermostat. For most of the morning, we walked across a ridge overlooking a valley that stretched all the way to the Tasman Sea. When we ran low on water, we simply filled up our Platypus at the next crystal clear stream. And as Zhou mentioned yesterday, the views from Conical Hill were simply incredible.
Although we spent days one and three below the treeline without much in the way of views, even those two days contained some pretty unique experiences. On day one we walked almost directly under a 174 meter tall waterfall, soaking us from head to toe.
On day three, we stopped once to sit by a stream and marvel at our surrounding environment, and once more for me to climb a maze of trees fallen in the river as if they were the playground at Leaps and Bounds.
But the most amazing part to me was how clean the entire track was. Unlike in Nepal where we used the trash of others to guide us down the right trail, here there is nothing but you and nature. Before the trek started we were given yellow trash bags to take with us, and it appears that no one in the history of the Routeburn has even let any trash fall outside of the yellow bags (ohhh, maybe Tokyodels are given yellow trash bags when they are born!). I actually regretted throwing my biodegradable eggshells in the woods after yesterday’s breakfasts.
In conclusion, I don’t think our Annapurna Circuit trek will ever be topped, so if you ever have three weeks free in the fall, I can’t think of a better way to spend them. However, the Routeburn is such a nice walk that is conserved so well by the New Zealand D.O.C. that I wouldn’t want to miss it either.
Picture of the Day: Four separate people all recommended a local gourmet hamburger joint called Ferg Burger as if they would eat their last supper there. It didn’t disappoint.